Lukashenko protects interests of Belarusians, Victory Day, CIS, EurAsEC, Local elections, New pipeline, Trade union; News, Sport and Polish scandal...
Alexander Lukashenko: I will always protect interests of Belarusian people and Belarus’ independence
“We need our own land, our own state in order to let the believers of different faiths be arbiters of their own destinies. We have to protect this land and God forbid protecting it in a war,” said the President.
“Independence is the most precious and sacred thing that a person may have. Let’s take care about our country, preserve and increase its wealth,” the President said.
Addressing all persons, who were in the cathedral, Alexander Lukashenko said that they looked a bit different than in previous years. “Your eyes are full of hope. And it is not even hope as such, it is confidence that tomorrow will be better. I am confident it will. I will do everything to make your life easier and better,” summarized the President.
Belarus President pledges support for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue
The state supports and will keep supporting the dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he met with Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Metropolitan of the Minsk and Mogilev Archidiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus, at St Mary Cathedral in Minsk on 6 April, BelTA has learnt.
The head of state underlined that it became a good tradition to discuss topical issues with the heads of the Catholic Church. “I think this is a good signal to our society. However, I would not want this meeting to be purely formal; we should discuss specific issues that accumulated over the last year. We will also talk about the overall situation with the religious communities,” the President said.
“I should say that your coming to an Orthodox church on Easter and our joint congratulations were properly received by the society,” the Belarusian head of state said.
“I am glad that the Catholic and Orthodox churches are developing really good relations, it is very important for me and I will support it,” Alexander Lukashenko added.
Belarus, Russia share commitment to high moral ideals, Alexander Lukashenko says
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko sent a message of congratulations to the participants of the Year of Belarusian Culture in the Russian Federation on the occasion of its opening on 5 April, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.
“The fates of the two peoples are inseparably intertwined and reach to their common historical roots and traditions. Besides, Russian is one of the state languages in the Republic of Belarus,” the message of congratulations runs.
The head of state stressed that in their cultures Belarus and Russia stay committed to high moral ideals, humanism, truth and good. “That is why it is so easy for us to understand each other,” the message of congratulations says.
This time Russians will be able to get familiar with the contemporary Belarusian art, attend the concerts of the Belarusian well-known singers, visit exhibitions of young artists and many more.
“Let this large-scale festive event be a present to all the Russians to the 65th anniversary of Great Victory and open new horizons for expanding the cultural cooperation between the brotherly countries,” the Belarusian head of state stressed.
Timely preparations for war victory celebrations in Belarus
“We have a month till the beginning of the festivities timed to the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory,” stressed Sergei Sidorsky. “The national committee and government agencies have done a lot. Today’s session is the final phase of the committee’s work”.
The Prime Minister remarked that aid to Great Patriotic War veterans continues to be delivered. “It is our sacred duty to the people we should be thankful to for our living in a free and independent country,” said Sergei Sidorsky.
In 2009 the volume of social aid provided to war veterans by the national and local budgets exceeded Br120 billion.
The head of government pointed out that memorials and military graves should be put into order. Some of the money yet to be earned by a nationwide subbotnik will be used for it. The efforts should be continued on a regular basis even after the celebration of the Victory Day.
The Victory celebrations will begin at the memorial complex Brest Hero Fortress.
Belarus to partake in CIS, EurAsEC, CSTO IPA sessions in St Petersburg
“The parliamentary delegation of Belarus led by Chainman of the Council of the Republic Boris Batura will attend the 34th plenary session of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, the 11th session of the EurAsEC Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, the sessions of the CIS IPA and the EurAsEC Bureau, permanent commission of the CIS, EurAsEC and CSTO parliamentary organizations,” the Council of the Republic informed.
The CIS parliamentarians will exchange their views on the joint efforts to overcome the global financial and economic crisis as well as inadmissibility of desecration or destruction of the monuments to the WWII Heroes. The MPs are expected to discuss draft model laws on the activity of private employment agencies, elementary and secondary vocational education, distance learning, rationalization activity. The members of the commissions will consider the progress made in working out model laws on public examination and recommendations on ethic principles of the scientific activity, the CIS draft program on cooperation in counteracting illegal migration for 2011-2012.
The top issue for discussion at the EurAsEC inter-parliamentary sessions will be the formation of the Customs Union and the single economic space, strengthening and improvement of its legislative base. For instance, the formation of the legal base of the Customs Union tops the agenda of the EurAsEC IPA Bureau session. The members of the Bureau will also consider the EurAsEC IPA draft proposal on adjusting the national legislations in line with the international agreements formulating the Customs Union legal basis. The session will also focus on the concepts of the EurAsEC legislative fundamentals – the banking and investment sectors.
The EurAsEC IPA commissions are set to consider a wide range of standard draft enactments. Among them are documents on the free economic zones, registration and transfer of technologies, the EurAsEC food safety, monitoring the quality of medical assistance in the EurAsEC member-states, the fundamentals of the cultural policy. Draft recommendations for harmonizing the legislations of the EurAsEC member-states on VAT collection, facilitating trade, currency regulations and control, air protection, ecological assessment, health protection are quite important for the EurAsEC integration processes.
The Expert-Advisory Council under the CSTO PA Council is set to discuss the formation of the CSTO collective rapid response forces. Draft recommendations for the unified lists of drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors will be brought to the forefront of the debates. The parliamentarians will consider the issues related to the elaboration of the CSTO anti-extremism agreement, exchange their views upon the necessity of including “lessons of historical memory” into the school curricula of the CSTO member-states.
In addition, the parliamentary delegation of Belarus will attend an international parliamentary conference to mark the 65th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 and an international parliamentary conference, the Future of the European Security slated for 7-8 April.
Diplomats from 17 states to monitor local elections in Belarus
In his words, the CEC received applications from 30 diplomats representing 17 states of Europe, Asia and the US. Nikolai Lozovik expects more applications to be submitted to the CEC before the elections start.
Accreditation certificates will be given to diplomats by 20 April. There is no need to do it earlier as all the diplomats will monitor the elections only on the polling day, 25 April.
Nikolai Lozovik underlined that it is the first time foreign diplomats take part in the local election observation. Belarus had never invited international observers to monitor local elections before; they usually took part in the observation of only general and parliamentary elections. The agreement to invite diplomats to monitor the 2010 local elections was reached at the meeting between CEC Chairperson Lydia Yermoshina and representatives of the foreign embassies.
The CEC Secretary noted that representatives of political parties, labor collectives, authorized representatives of candidates and citizens have the right to monitor the elections. “Over 19,000 Belarusian observers worked at the previous elections. I think their number will be as big this time, as the election commissions have already issued accreditation certificates for 1,600 domestic observers,” Nikolai Lozovik said.
Belavia’s another Boeing to land in Minsk on 7 April
The US-made Boeing 737/500 will land at the national airport Minsk at 21:30. The company bought it on operating lease terms. It is the six Boeing aircraft of this modification that will enter Belavia’s aircraft fleet.
The Boeing 737/500 aircraft can carry 131 passengers in economy and business classes for up to 4,444km with the cruising speed of 912km/h.
The company plans to use the aircraft primarily for regular flights. The aircraft has been fully examined and meets all international safety requirements.
In view of the company’s policy aimed at expanding the area covered with regular flights as well as the increased demand for regular and chartered flights, Belavia buys new aircraft to meet passengers’ demand for reliable and comfortable travels, said the source. The air carrier is a decent competitor for foreign air carriers, which presence on the Belarusian market increases year by year.
The national air carrier Belavia is the leader of the Belarusian market of transportation by air. It offers regular flights to 32 locations in 20 countries across the globe. The company operates six Boeing 737/500 aircraft, three CRJ 100/200 aircraft and four Tu 154M aircraft.
Belarus’ international reserve assets up 7.4% in January-March
In January-March 2010 Belarus’ international reserve assets calculated using the IMF methods increased by 7.4% to $6073.9 million, BelTA learnt from the information department of the National Bank of Belarus.
In line with the methods used by the International Monetary Fund, Belarus’ international reserves are defined as marketable foreign assets, which consist of monetary gold, the country’s special drawing rights in the IMF, the country’s reserve position in the IMF and foreign currency reserves. The reserve assets can be promptly used for money market interventions in order to stabilize the exchange rate of the national currency, to finance the import of goods and services by the government, for paying and servicing the foreign national debt and for other purposes.
In January-March 2010 Belarus’ international reserve assets calculated using national methods increased by 7.3% ($434.7 million) to $6413.2 million.
As of 1 April hard currency accounted for the larger part of the international reserve assets of Belarus ($3033.3 million, or 47.3%) along with precious metals and gems ($1161.9 million, or 18.1%). In January-March the hard currency assets increased by 19.9%, the volume of precious metals and gems – by 2.3%. Other assets amounted to $2218 million, or 34.6%. In January-March they decreased by 4%.
BelTA reported earlier that the NBRB expects the country’s gold and foreign currency reserves to increase by $0.5-1.83 billion in 2010. This is envisaged in the draft monetary policy guidelines of Belarus.
Spazio 2009 to build wind mills in Grodno oblast
The Italian-Belarusian company Spazio 2009 plans to take part in setting up a wind farm in the Grodno oblast, BelTA learnt from Semyon Sergeichik, head of the investment and foreign economic activity department of the Grodnoinvest free economic zone administration.
The company signed the relevant protocol on intentions after its negotiations with the representatives of the Grodnoenergo company. Spazio 2009 expressed readiness to supply necessary component parts and assemble one or several wind mills near Krevo in the Smorgon region.
The company is also ready to open a credit line for the project implementation. In late April Spazio 2009 experts are expected to arrive in the region to study the potential of the chosen site and discuss details of the future wind mills. A 10MW wind farm is to be set up in the Smorgon region. The capacity of one Italian wind mill will vary from 1.5MW to 7MW.
According to Semyon Sergeichik, the sides are also discussing an opportunity of producing national component parts for wind mills in the free economic zone.
There are plans to set up a wind farm in the Novogrudok region as a pilot windpower engineering project in Grodno. A wind farm of 7-8 wind-driven power plants that will generate up to 30 million kWh of electricity will be set up in the location close to the village of Grabniki. An agreement of the delivery of wind-drive power plants has been signed with one of the Chinese companies. The installation’s capacity will reach 1.5MW, with the annual output as large as 3.8 million kWh.
Weather patterns allow using Europe-made wind-driven power plants near Oshmyany and Volkovysk as well.
Belarus, Kazakhstan Lukewarm Over Customs Union
From: Moscow Times
The move to create a trade bloc with annual turnover in excess of $600 billion has met growing discontent from officials and business leaders in Kazakhstan and Belarus, who say their interests are being neglected.
"This is going to hit our wallets," said Talgat Akuov, head of Kazakhstan's Independent Association of Entrepreneurs.
Russia, the largest economy outside the 153-member World Trade Organization, announced in June that it would pursue membership only as part of the customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, effectively resetting 16 years of accession talks.
Kazakhstan, the world's largest uranium miner, and Belarus, an industrialized nation bordering the European Union, were originally keen to join the union to secure benefits such as cheap energy from Russia.
But Minsk, smarting from a New Year's dispute with Moscow over crude oil duties, has cast doubt over the union only months after its inauguration. Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said Russia-backed exceptions to trade jeopardized its existence.
"It is destined to fail if we already introduce certain exceptions," Lukashenko said last month.
Russia and its partners agreed from Jan. 1 to drop most duties on mutual trade and move toward harmonizing customs rules. From July 1, they are due to adopt a common external tariff and begin redistribution of the duties they collect.
Some analysts in Russia say the benefits, such as bigger markets for Kazakh metals and Belarussian consumer goods and foodstuffs, more than justify the cost to the smaller partners.
"Kazakhstan and Belarus benefit from the creation of the customs union because the Russian market opens up for them," said Deutsche Bank analyst Yaroslav Lissovolik.
But others say Russia is the clear winner, gaining new markets and reinforcing its regional clout at a time when its long-standing allies are seeking alliances elsewhere.
In Kazakhstan, business executives and opposition politicians are threatening the government with public protests, saying the country is losing from the agreement — a view shared by some Western economists.
Ralph De Haas and Alex Plekhanov, economists at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said Russian carmakers, metals suppliers and dairy firms were among those most likely to win from the new trade deal.
"[They] face less competition in Kazakhstan and Belarus because producers from third countries [such as China and Southeast Asian countries] have been put at a disadvantage," the two wrote on the EBRD's web site last month.
Belarus has joined the union largely to save on Russian energy imports, which cost it about $10 billion a year. Kazakhstan hopes to boost exports of commodities such as metals, chemicals and coal to Russia.
Russia, however, will this year send only 6.3 million metric tons of duty-free oil to Belarus, enough for domestic consumption. Minsk must pay full duties on the additional 14 million metric tons or more that it will receive for refining and re-export.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that Belarus will actually pay $2 billion more for Russian oil this year. The issue has further strained relations between Moscow and Minsk.
"The jury is probably still out on the implications of the union for Belarus," Plekhanov said.
"Belarus' primary interest is access to Russian energy resources at Russian domestic-market, or otherwise discounted, prices. The agreement on whether this may be possible once the common customs area is formed has not been reached yet."
For Kazakhstan, the new zone has so far brought only higher prices. Central Asia's biggest economy has raised traditionally low import duties to match those in Russia, which uses high duties and import bans to protect domestic carmakers and pork and poultry producers.
EBRD's De Haas and Plekhanov said Kazakhstan, where officials still support the deal, could see "welfare losses" from the union, although some companies such as metals producers — which have strong political clout — could gain from it.
Kazakh business executives, however, were pessimistic.
Akuov, head of the entrepreneurs' association, said Kazakhstan had raised duties on 5,000 types of goods. Consumers, their incomes hit hard by the economic slump, are concerned as shops have raised prices on imports ranging from cat food to cars.
Rouble faces the scrapheap in Russia, Balarus
The newspaper report quoted Shuvalov as saying that he wouldn't rule out a transition to a common currency union with these countries.
In the meantime, The Moscow Times also reported that on March 24 the Central Bank of Russia was forced to ease its trading band for the 12th time in three weeks, after the rouble strengthened against the dollar to the highest level in almost two months on the back of climbing oil prices.
The newspaper says that the rouble added 0.7pc against the dollar to leave one US dollar worth 29.6 roubles in Moscow trading.
Russia's Gazprom begins construction of Nord Stream pipeline
From: RIA Novosti
The Nord Stream pipeline will eventually pump 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year to western Europe, bypassing traditional transit countries such as Ukraine and Belarus blamed for previous disruptions in gas supplies to the region.
Two pipelines, each with a capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters a year, are designed to stretch from the Russian city of Vyborg near the Finnish border to Greifswald on the coast of Germany.
A ceremony marking the start of the pipeline construction will reportedly be held in Vyborg on April 9. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, as well as a range of European Commission representatives and top-ranking officials from the countries involved in the project, are expected to take part in the ceremony.
The pipeline operator, Nord Stream A.G., announced in March that it had secured 3.9 billion euros ($5.3 billion) in financing for the project, covering 70% of the first phase. Gas transportation on the new line should begin in 2011.
The remaining 30% of the costs are expected to be financed by the Nord Stream shareholders. Gazprom holds a 51% stake, German chemical group BASF/Winterhshall and utility E.ON Ruhrgas each hold 20% stakes and Dutch energy group Gasunie holds 9%.
Russia and Germany signed an agreement on the construction of the pipeline in September 2005, during then-president Vladimir Putin's visit to Berlin.
Nord Stream A.G. has changed the originally proposed route of the pipeline to ease environmental concerns from Baltic nations. The final route goes through the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, avoiding Poland and the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
WWII veterans stage protest in front of Minsk office of pro-opposition newspaper Narodnaya Volya
The city authorities had sanctioned the protest in downtown Minsk.
The elderly people arrived at the place at around 11 a.m., holding signs “We have given you peace and you have made us suffer,” “Calumniators should be held liable” and “We have beaten the Nazis, we will beat calumniators.”
Fragments from Minsk resident Ilya Kopyla’s memoirs focusing on Stalin’s terror and partisan activities in the Vitsyebsk region outraged the veterans.
“Nobody is allowed to pour mud onto people who have liberated Belarus from the Nazis,” Anatol Adonyew, head of the Minsk city organization of WWII veterans, told BelaPAN.
Narodnaya Volya editor Svyatlana Kalinkina met with the protesters. She pledged that the newspaper’s staff would receive representatives of veterans’ organizations, and suggested that they could have their reminiscences published.
Ms. Kalinkina told BelaPAN that the protest had come as a surprise to her. “Demonstrations in the close vicinity of the Presidential Administration building had never been allowed before,” she said. “It is really an extraordinary event.”
She acknowledged that Mr. Kopyla’s book offered “a different version of the war than that given by ideology officials.” “It looks differently at the resistance movement and what partisans did,” she said. “But I didn’t expect veterans to flock here for a protest. I thought that we would just receive indignant and angry letters and calls.”
A stereotype is thriving in Belarus’ society that there are “right and wrong” memories about the war,” the editor said. “The Narodnaya Volya, however, believes that all memories are right,” she said.
Ms. Kalinkina reiterated that the newspaper would offer protesters an opportunity to give their visions of the war. “The Narodnaya Volya is not the newspaper that denies people a say,” she said. “If material is about facts and events rather than just slogans, we will publish it. We even have a special section,” she said.
The demonstration lasted 10 minutes. The veterans dispersed after handing over their signs to the editorial staff.
Kamarouski: Harassment of Belarusian journalists is a single continuous chain
From: Charter '97
Some dozens of people were standing in front of the editor’s office holding posters “Syaredzich! We won't tolerate veterans' humiliation”, “No to history falsificators!”, “No to libel”, “War veterans against lies”.
The action was orchestrated by the chairman of Minsk city branch of veterans' organization, Anatoly Adonyeu. What is going on and who stands behind the war veterans? Alyaksandr Kamarouski, the head of the Minsk region organization of Afghan war veterans, comments on the situation to the website “Belorusski Partizan”.
– Mr Alyaksandr, the Belarusian war veterans have recently become more active – they attack “Belorusski Partizan”, or hold pickets in front of “Narodnaya Volya” office. For an unknown reason, veterans more worry about politics rather then living on their miserable pensions. Why?
– It is becoming more difficult for the authorities and secret services to take on responsibility. They have to listen to the world (Lukashenka is depends on the world, he needs investments, loans, etc). That’s why they try to pull the fifth column of Lukashism. The things that the secret service used to do are now done by war veterans.
I have just talked to Adonyeu, who organized the picket yesterday. We agreed they we have nothing to talk about, we have different views on life. I tore his business card and threw it away.
Adonyeu is a professional officer responsible for political affairs, he dealt with distribution of deficit consumer goods. That was a duty of a political officer. He spent 1.5. or 2 years in Egypt, it is said he was an instructor. Only the people especially devoted to the Party could be sent to Egypt. They earned huge money there, but didn’t participate in combat operations. Being a son of kulaks, I couldn’t be sent to Egypt, but was sent to Afghanistan, because people were killed there.
So, when someone speaks about veterans, not war veterans, but veterans of the party are meant. They had normal life under the communism and have found their place under Lukashism. Let’s take Adonyeu: he seats in a free premises in the House of War Veterans and uses a telephone for free. So he needs to do something to thanks to these privileges. The regional center of Afghan war veterans in Zhodzina paid for premises and for telephone communication (much money, because we have many contacts), but we were expelled from the premises. Sometimes you need to conflict with officials to protect the rights of veterans.
But these veterans don’t know such problems.
We have faced provocations in the mid2000s: they planted drugs on us, the newspaper “Sovetskaya Belorussia” attacked us two times. I could have taken 100, 200, even 500 people to the office of “Savetskaya Belorussia”. But we would have been thrown into prison.
I know only two real war veterans in my district – Pavel Yarokhavets, a driver, who drove to Berlin during the war, and Uladzimir Murashka, who was shooting the Nazi since the age of 14. I talked to them, they said they wouldn’t picket “Narodnaya Volya” because the newspaper prints the truth of life.
– Attacks on Belarusian independent websites and newspapers, harassment of journalists Svyatlana Kalinkina, Iryna Khalip, Natallya Radzina, are these events links of the same chain?
– The authorities and secret services need to wash. They need to wash themselves for what they are doing with beautiful journalists, Natasha Radzina, Iryna Khalip, Svyatlana Kalinkina, Maryna Koktysh. These are pretty brave women. How can it come to beating Natasha Radzina trying to defend the honour of General Korzh? The whole President’s Administration doesn’t have enough honour to have the right to beat a journalist!
This is a single chain. The actions of the authorities regarding the Union of Poles in Belarus and its head Andzelika Borys is another link in the chain.
– What will this lead to?
– This is confrontation of the society. The result can be very poor… Why do we need authorities? The authorities are needed to serve people. There are 10 million of Belarusians. It is impossible that ten millions can have a common opinion. There are four of us in my family, and we have four different views. Should I destroy my family? But our state does– if the Poles have their opinion, they have to be pressed, if journalists have their views, they have to be pressed as well.
Two Afghan war veterans, Mikalai Autukhovich and Uladzimir Asipenka, have been in prison for two years. The veterans are in prison only because a provocateur gives false evidence. The notorious grenade launcher is a fake, it is proved by the experts who used grenade launchers in combat operations. How can it took two attempts to blow up the grenade launcher? Bu the provocateur gives evidence and the veterans are sitting in prison.
The veterans picketing the office of “Narodnaya Volya” are the last echelon, sent to a battle. The last column…
Mahiliou regional election commission apologizes for ‘technical mistake’
Mr. Belanohau informed the human rights defender that the commission was established on 27 January 2010 (which corresponds to the timing schedule of the election measures) and the appropriate information was posted at the website of the Mahiliou regional executive committee in the Elections section on 28 January 2010.
’It is a usual falsification’, says the human rights defender, ‘bold and shameless lies. What technical mistake can they speak of, if the information was published at the official website almost a month before the appointment of the elections and one of the members confirmed the fact of its establishment in December 2009 in a private talk?’
Bear in mind that yesterday the date of the information 58 constituencies for election to the Mahiliou regional Council of Deputies of the 26 Convocation were established in the region was considerably shortened and its date was changed from 28 December 2009 to 2 February 2010.
Barysau: electoral meeting at closed precinct
The administration of the military unit #93685 refused to let in Tamara Kavazhenka, candidate for the Barysau district Council of Deputies, her proxies and a group of electors for about 30 minutes.
Precinct #5 of election constituency #7 is situated in the club of the military unit. An electoral meeting with colonel Valer Hnilazub, a candidate for the district council, and his rival Tamara Kavazhenka, well-known among the people for her active struggle against the impoundment of the local yards, was to have taken place there on 6 April at 6.00 p.m.
An officer who introduced himself as the head of the precinct stated that precinct #5 was closed and civilians were banned to enter it. When Kavazhenka's proxy Mikhail Vasiliieu started phoning to the Barysau district election commission and the Central Election Commission, the officer changed his mind and let the candidate and the proxy come in. At the same time, he blankly refused to let in the citizens of the village of Dymki who wanted to ask colonel Hnilazub how he would solve their problems if he would be elected a deputy.
Hnilazubau had already finished his speech by the time Kavazhenka and Vasiliieu came to the club where some tens of soldiers gathered. Candidate Kavazhenka also delivered a speech before the present people and answered their questions.
Russian Gas Price For Armenia To Rise Further
Under an agreement with Russia’s Gazprom monopoly, the ArmRosGazprom national gas operator started paying $180 per thousand cubic meters of Russian gas starting from April 1. The gas price already rose from $110 to $154 per thousand cubic meters in April 2009.
A top Gazprom executive visiting Armenia was reported to say on Tuesday that the existing price is still well below the current international average of over $300 and that it will have to be adjusted accordingly. Anatoly Podmyshalsky argued that even Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, is currently paying more than Armenia.
According to Movsisian, Armenia has no choice but to accept this reality. He said that the Armenian government and ARG had planned to buy Russian gas at international prices by 2012 but that the economic crisis will slow the transition.
“Of course, switching to that regime will be tough,” Movsisian told journalists. “But if gas has that price all over the region, what else can we do?”
The minister said Yerevan has not yet discussed with the Russians the time and scale of the next tariff rise. “But their approach is that gas must eventually be sold at the same price both inside and outside Russia,” he said.
The most recent tariff hike led ARG, 80 percent of which is owned by the Russian giant, to raise the gas price for Armenian households by 37.5 percent. The price rise for corporate consumers was less drastic.
Armenia’s dependence on Russian gas was supposed to ease with the construction in late 2008 of a gas pipeline from neighboring Iran. ARG began importing modest amounts of Iranian gas in May 2009.
The monetary cost of that gas is still not known. Armenia is paying for it with electricity supplies to Iran. The volume of the gas-electricity exchange is due to increase substantially in the next few years.
Russian troops to march in Kyiv’s Victory Day parade
However, there are those who might begin to question the steadfastness of the president in his European direction when Russian troops comes marching down Khreshchatyk on Victory Day, May 9.
The participation of Russian troops in the parades in both Kyiv and Minsk has been widely heralded by RIA Novosti, Russia’s state-owned news service, quoting Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Alexander Kolmakov as having said, "[Russian troops] are to participate in May 9 activities on the territory of Belarus and Ukraine."
Russia bond to intensify global scramble for funds
The global bond will be Russia's first in over a decade and is seen as a trophy credit by many dedicated emerging markets funds, who analysts reckon have set aside plentiful cash in order to snap up the paper when it goes on sale.
But the timing of the launch, when even U.S. Treasury debt prices are coming under some pressure, may well leave more troubled sovereign borrowers such as Greece struggling to raise cash as a result.
What is more, strategists say it may also draw a line under the boom in emerging market bond issuance, which hit a record $74 billion in the first quarter of this year.
Russia has drawn up plans for $17.8 billion in external financing for 2010, although some experts reckon it could now require less thanks to resurgent energy prices.
The scarcity of Russian foreign debt has prompted investors to set aside some of the record $18.8 billion that flowed into emerging debt funds in the first quarter for the new bond.
"Cash balances have increased and exposures have declined despite record inflows into emerging debt," said Rashique Rahman, Morgan Stanley's emerging markets macro strategy head.
"Plenty of accounts are still sitting on cash -- in part because investors are waiting for this quarter's issuance which includes not just the Russian sovereign deal but corporate issuance from Russia," he added.
Joining Russia on the markets could be investment-grade Brazil, which has mooted a possible issue in the coming weeks.
The appeal of external debt sold by the two countries, set to benefit from higher commodity prices this year, will spill outside the traditional emerging markets focused investor base.
"They could even crowd out appetite for euro zone countries such as Greece," said Morgan Stanley's Rahman.
Greece is reported to be seeking the sale of $5-to-$10 billion in bonds to mainly U.S. investors but the debt-stricken euro zone economy stands in stark contrast to Brazil and Russia which have low public debt levels.
With yields in excess of 400 bps over benchmark German Bunds, Greek bonds are already offering returns comparable to weaker emerging sovereign names.
"We have the trend of upward credit rating trends in emerging markets and the trend of deteriorating ratings in G7 countries and those on the periphery of the euro zone," said Michael Ganske, head of emerging markets research at Commerzbank.
The cost of insuring Greek bonds against default already rates the country's sovereign debt as the ninth riskiest in the world, just above Egypt.
While buyers of euro zone and emerging market debt remain largely two distinct groups, previously predictable returns associated with the two asset classes are now unmoored.
This could force emerging borrowers at the weaker end of the credit-rating spectrum to offer higher returns on their debt to entice buyers, making it costlier for countries such as Belarus, Montenegro and Kenya when they come to the market this year.
TREASURY PRESSURES LOOMING
At the same time, the spike in Treasury yields to nine-month highs is also eroding the premiums that investors earn on dollar-denominated emerging debt over benchmark U.S. bonds.
With U.S. Treasuries offering a 'risk-free' return of four percent yields for 10 years, emerging borrowers will have to offer wider spreads to issue hard-currency debt.
Trading at around 230 basis points, emerging sovereign dollar bonds are already at their tightest over Treasuries since late 2007.
Raphael Marechal, a debt fund manager at Fortis Investments, thinks the narrowing premiums could impel emerging market investors to go beyond sovereign dollar debt.
"It could make investors more aggressive -- not necessarily on sovereign external debt but to take on local or corporate debt offering higher yields," he said.
Polish skier Marek DQ'd over EPO at Vancouver
From: USA Today
Poland's Ski Association banned Marek on Wednesday from all competitions and canceled her funding.
Marek, who was the only competitor to test positive for doping at the Games, said she was sorry her scandal overshadowed the six medals Poland won in Vancouver.
Marek tested positive after helping Poland finish sixth in the 20K relay. She admitted taking injections but said she believed the substances were allowed.
The IOC and international ski authorities are investigating.
Grievous after-Easter report
The countrywide police campaign connected with Easter started on Friday. Almost ten hundred policemen controlled, first of all, drivers' speed. “There were 20-25 per cent fewer accidents than last year” - told us Robert Horosz, a spokesperson of Polish Police Headquarters.
To compare: Last year during Easter, 35 persons died and 542 were injured in 382 car accidents. The police detained then as many as 1959 under the influence drivers.
A man of 40 names disguised for a woman
“Mariusz W. was being tracked down for six years with four warrants of arrest, three European Warrants of Arrest, and a couple of orders of his conveyance. He is accused of murders, mugging, body damage, and thefts,” informed Agnieszka Hamelusz from the Press Department of the Police Headquarters.
She added that the apprehension was possible only thanks to the cooperation between the Polish and Spanish police. “Bronek” was caught in Barcelona. The pinpointing of his whereabouts and the arresting procedure posed serious difficulties, since he was using the identities of 40 different people. The Police from Gdansk even managed to establish that in the years 2001/2002 he was travelling through Europe pretending to be a woman,” added Hamelusz.
The biggest Polish plantation of marijuana has been discovered
The plantation had its own escape routes, leading to the forest nearby. It was also well prepared to a wholesale production of drugs. There were even special hidden trapdoors leading to a basement, where cultivation halls were located. The biggest plants were up to one and a half metre long.
However, the above mentioned escape routes did not work out. The police caught the whole band. Moreover, on the crime scene 150 kilograms of dried plants and 40 kilograms of a ready-to-sale marijuana were found. The value of the discovered drugs was estimated to be about one million zlotys.
All of the arrested are well known to the local police. They had been sentenced for battery and frauds, among others. For production illegal drugs on a big scale, they can be imprisoned for at least three years.
A 14-year-old mother had five partners
The girl gave birth at the end of October. It happened in the restroom next to the gym’s changing room at the school which she attends. Before that, nobody had known that she was pregnant.
At the beginning, the girl claimed that she had been raped by two acquaintances from a nearby village. Both men were arrested but it turned out that they had not raped the girl, also neither of them was the father of the child. One of them was acquitted of all charges, the other man has been charged with statutory rape.
The search for the father continued. Eventually it turned out that the girl had had five partners. She got pregnant with the youngest one – nearly 16-year-old boy from the same village. As the girl’s mother put it, “they got on with each other” but “he wasn’t even her boyfriend”.
The little baby-girl is taken care of by her grandmother and the girl has returned to school. The men she slept with will be tried for statutory rape, which is punishable with imprisonment up to twelve years.
Zankovets will lead Belarus at Worlds
From: Universal Sports
Zankovets has been an assistant coach of the national team for several years, a role he has also had with the Russian club SKA St. Petersburg.
The executive committee of the association also named Andrei Gusov, Alexander Andrievsky and Vladimir Tsyplakov assistant coaches.
Zakharov, who coached the team in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, will focus on his duties with Yunost Minsk and the Ukrainian national team that will play in the Division I World Championship later this month.
“In my eyes, we need to rely on Belarusian specialists in view of 2014,” said Evgeni Vorsin, president of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Association. That year, Belarus hopes to take part in the Olympics in Sochi as well as hosting the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk.
Zankovets, 40, hails from Minsk where he played for Dynamo Minsk in the Soviet league before stints in Russia, Denmark, Germany, Finland and the U.S. He represented Belarus as a forward in the 1998 and 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
The IIHF World Championships begin May 7, in Germany, and will run until May 23.
No. 2 seed Alona Bondarenko upset by unseeded Olga Govortsova at Ponte Vedra
Govortsova won the first set before the 25th-ranked Bondarenko settled down to capture the second. But the 52nd-ranked Govortsova cruised through the final set.
In other matches, Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the U.S., defeated Anastasia Rodionova of Australia 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-5; Angelique Kerber of Germany beat American Vania King 6-2, 6-3; Ayumi Morita of Japan rallied past qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva of Kazakhstan 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 and Peng Shuai of China beat Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan 6-4, 6-2.
Belarusian Christians celebrating Easter
This year the Eastern Orthodox Easter coincides with the Western Protestant Catholic Easter, with all Christian denominations in Belarus marking the religious feast on the same day.
In his Easter message, Minsk and Slutsk Metropolitan Filaret, head of the Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, used a quote from the Bible’s Second Book of Esdras. “Do right to the widow, judge for the fatherless, give to the poor, defend the orphan, clothe the naked, heal the broken and the weak, laugh not a lame man to scorn, defend the maimed, and let the blind man come into the sight of my clearness, keep the old and young within thy walls. Wheresoever thou findest the dead, take them and bury them, and I will give thee the first place in my resurrection.”
He said that the words “contain the basics of public morals and justice.” “In modern parlance, these words from the Scriptures lay down the Bible’s social program topical not only for the church and the state but also for the entire world community.”
Belarus’ top Roman Catholic cleric, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, said in his Easter address to the clergy and laity that “today God frees people from the darkness of sin and death” and warned against “hiding one’s head like the ostrich hides his in the sand in the face of difficulties.”
On the opposite, commending himself to God, he [the Christian] must aspire to the triumph of the moral law, life, truth and justice. A crisis happens when there is a change of values, when true Christian values set by God are replaced by others, which are in fact anti-values,” Msgr. Kondrusiewicz said.
As Maryna Tsvilik, a departmental head at the office of the government’s commissioner on religious and ethnic affairs, told BelaPAN, the Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church controls 11 eparchies. There are 1,315 Orthodox temples in the country and 152 more are under construction. The number of Orthodox communities has reached 1,509, with as many as 1,564 priests conducting worship.
The Exarchate runs five theological schools, including the Zhyrovichy Theological Academy and Zhyrovichy Theological Seminary, 31 monasteries, 14 brotherhoods and nine sisterhoods.
The Roman Catholic Church in Belarus consists of 470 parishes and four eparchies.
There are 466 Roman Catholic churches and 414 priests, including 164 foreigners, in Belarus at present. Twenty-eight more churches are under construction.
Fourteen Protestant denominations are represented by a total of 997 communities in Belarus.